WASHINGTON — Four years ago this week, a young and inspirational senator who promised to turn history’s page swept the Iowa caucuses and began his irresistible rise to the White House.
Barack Obama was unlike any candidate the country had seen before. More than a mere politician, he became a cultural icon, “the biggest celebrity in the world,” as a John McCain ad accurately if mischievously described him. He was the object of near adoration among the young, launching what often felt like a religious revival. Artists poured out musical compositions devoted to his victory in a rich variety of forms, from reggae and hip-hop to the Celtic folk song. (My personal favorite: “There’s no one as Irish as Barack O’Bama.”) Electoral contests rarely hold out the possibility of making all things new, but Obama’s supporters in large numbers fervently believed that 2008 was exactly such a campaign.